Welcome to Empirical Purple

A blog by Simon Brady to cover a surprisingly wide range of geekiness, in a combination that no-one else does quite the same way. Probably. Either that, or it'll just be Simon talking about the likes of Football (usually the Soccer variety), PC & Tabletop Gaming, WWE, Movies, Music and occasionally even my actual job of Graphic Design, depending on what I'm up to in the world.



Thursday, February 28, 2013

Pop is still Art


Some proper art for those who like it. Or is it?
Unfortunately, this is not a post about Roy Lichtenstein, it's a post about music. Last night at the NME awards, the British boy band One Direction were named Worst Band, with their most prominent member, Harry Styles, named villain of the year.

This comes fresh on the heels of this year's Brit Awards where they received the 'BRITs Global Success' award (whatever that is) to keep the target audience of teenage girls happy in exchange for not winning Best Group.


The awards that the NME dishes out have never been relevant on my radar, though neither have the BRIT awards.  My music taste is fairly wide-ranging and covers many different styles and types.

I still, of course, avoid some genres like the plague, but Pop is not one of them. I guess that makes me one of the rare types of music fan as outlined by Adam Buckley of A Dose of Buckley:



I'll say it now, loud and proud, that One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" is a brilliant pop record. It's catchy, perky, singable, has lyrics to drive teenage girls wild and is produced just right, neither over- or under-tampered with. I'm not familiar with any of their songs that haven't hit the top of the charts, but that's  a great one.

I've been looking to fill an audio void in my life for the past few weeks as I've been playing a lot of World of Warcraft and the in-game atmospheric music just won't cut it on a three hour session. I'm running out of new podcast episodes to listen to from the selection I subscribe to, and I fancied listening to something outside of my usual iTunes collection. 

So I jumped on my little-used Spotify and decided to make a playlist of all those earworm pop songs that are near-universally derided by those who like "proper" music. I came up with this list so far:

Girls Aloud, Love Machine; Beyonce, Crazy in Love; One Direction, What Makes You Beautiful; LMFAO, Sexy and I Know It; Rihanna, Shut up and Drive; Britney Spears, Toxic; Psy, Gangnam Style; P!nk, Raise Your Glass, Carly Rae Jepsen, Call Me Maybe and Kelly Clarkson, Since U've Been Gone. What others should I include and how many crimes have I already committed by putting them in  a playlist together?

Two things struck me while coming up with this list.. Firstly, you could pick some of the most-successful tunes in the pop chart over the last five-to-ten years and you end up including artists like Coldplay (several tunes, let's face it), The Killers (Mr Brightside), and Kings of Leon (Sex on Fire) who are certainly not pop acts but have made such great records that the mainstream actually buys them too. Is including the 'proper' artists who happen to have huge success in a list of great pop tunes still sticking to the intention of picking awesome out-and-out pop tunes?

Secondly, the further back you go the more likely you are to see pop music of the time as getting into classics territory. Go back to the Spice Girls, who are unquestionably not a legendary timeless act for the ages, right? Go back a bit further. Human League, maybe? There, in the melody of Gold, is my personal boundary for what is an all-time classic and what can still be regarded as mainstream pop to irritate the cool kids. In fact, I still can't decide which side of the line it should fall on. Keep rewinding the tape and you have Michael Jackson, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elvis. They were all crappy mainstream pop for teenage girls to scream at, right? They were all the One Directions and Justin Biebers of their time and all it goes to prove is that hindsight and historical perspective is a wonderful thing to appreciate good music.






As per usual, Danny Baker says it better and more succinctly than I. •sigh• Just wait for 20 or 30 years to go by and the Kings and Queens of mainstream pop may well be the respected, legendary artists of the future to look back on and revere. 

Well, maybe not Justin Bieber. I have yet to be convinced of that one.

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